Ever wondered whether learning to design garments is as glamorous as it sounds? We pull back the curtain on studying fashion and give you an inside look at the life of a fashion design student.
When we think about breaking into the fashion industry, we tend to imagine scenes from The Devil Wears Prada or Sex and the City – all glossy photo shoots, clicking high heels and devastating pouts. And with names such as Alexander McQueen, Tom Ford, Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney counted among the scores of design alumni, it’s no wonder our idea of fashion school is shrouded in glamour (and plenty of tulle).
While a career in fashion is certainly one of the more glittering options, the reality of learning the rag trade requires determination and grit. A good fashion course teaches students not only to design and make clothing, but to solve problems, think critically and market their product.
In Australia, the Bureau of Statistics states that more than 75 per cent of Australian fashion, industrial and jewellery designers have tertiary qualifications, lending weight to Oscar Wilde’s claim that you can never be overdressed or over-educated – especially, it seems, in the fashion world.
To find out what it’s like to study fashion design, we spoke to current and past students about the lessons, hurdles and rewards. Here are four key things we learned:
1. You’ll be challenged – in a good way
The assessments that measure your progress involve some serious work – comprehensive research, responding to a design brief, mood boards, production planning and report writing are all required in addition to the designing and construction of garments, says OC student Kathie Pisto.
“These are all-important skills when working in the fashion industry, whether you’re working on a project with your peers, or a customer.”
Kathie, who has studied both Certificate IV and then a Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Technology, says that one of her most rewarding assessments was the creation of a 1920s-style wedding dress for a well-known model client.
“The brief was very comprehensive… The garment required some embellishment and was to be made out of a fabric that had lots of drape,” recalls Kathie.
“I doubted myself at times, wondering whether I had made the task too difficult, but the end result was excellent and I was very proud of what I designed.”
2. It might not always be glamorous…
Vivien Leung studies a Diploma of Applied Fashion Design and Technology at Open Colleges, and sought work at a fashion wholesaler and a fashion label to get first-hand experience on top of her classes and assessments. More than anything, the exposure has given her insight into the diligence required to keep ahead in such a fast-paced industry.
“You always have to keep up to date and on-trend,” says Vivien. “People are always after the next big thing, so it will be hard work.”
3. But there are plenty of perks
“It’s still early days for me, but I can see the best thing about a course like this is the connections you make,” says Vivien. “They will ultimately take you where you want to go.”
Victoria Konash, another Diploma student, also cites this entrée to the industry as a major highlight of studying fashion – in particular, the all-access trips to Sydney and Melbourne Fashion Weeks that include visits to exhibitions, runway shows and garment factories.
“That was an invaluable experience I would never be able to get alone,” says Victoria. “Especially for someone planning to go into their own business after finishing the course.”
4. If you love it, it’s worth it
“The best thing about studying fashion is exploring your creativity,” says Victoria. Indeed, something significant to note about fashion degrees is that they can balance the freedom of imagination and inventiveness within the structure of learning a specific set of skills.
The bottom line is that if you’re passionate about design and aren’t afraid of a little hard work, you’ll relish the opportunity to learn and get involved in this ever-evolving industry. ¬
Does this sound like you? Kick-start your fashion aspirations by researching Fashion Careers. Or check out facts on the Fashion Industry in Australia with this infographic.